Reading Squee: English Pastoral – James Rebanks

I got given a book token this year. I cannot express how delightful it is to have money to spend on books and not having to feel at all guilty about it is.

I bought English Pastoral in part of my buying spree. It’s a good book, he writes so beautifully about his farm but he’s also unflinching about the painful bits too.

My experience of farms is limited to two holidays with my aunt in Ireland when we camped at Kathleen’s, there were chickens and cows and hay barns and dogs, I think there was a relative with a goat farm too. So it’s fascinating to hear from someone who’s family stayed on the farm how things have been. Why they are broken and how one family is trying to fix it.

Growing on an allotment is not farming either but growing food is work, and the food I grow is an additional extra, my salary and housing doesn’t depend on having a perfect crop of tomatoes, carrots and cabbages that fit the specifications set by a supermarket buyer. In fact every week when I have to scrub, wash and de-creature the produce that I grow, I wonder how farmers do it.

Which is to say that I mostly agree with Rebanks, he’s honest about mistakes and truthful about the difficulties because the people that are divorced from the work of farming, really need to understand what it is, why we need it and what will happen if we don’t support them. With the caveat that supporting them is not the same as agreeing with all of them. I do think that if we can we need to put our money where our mouths are. I eat less but better quality meat, produced by British farmers, most of the veg I don’t grow comes from Oddbox and anything other fruit and veg I buy, except citrus, is British.

Like the farm that Rebanks works and runs, it’s not perfect but we have to understand what the problem is if we what to solve it and this is a good place to start to understand.

About nicdempsey

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